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Lead Balloon Ep. 5 - The Seinfeld Press Conference, with Tim O'Brien

Updated: Apr 10



It might be tough to imagine these days, but public relations work still got done in the era before cell phones and broadband. Somehow.


But like the show Seinfeld, one of the most popular sitcoms from the '90s, the slow speed of information back then could cause challenges and miscommunications during high-stakes PR events--issues which otherwise might have been solved with a quick phone call.


In this episode of Lead Balloon, Pittsburgh-based PR consultant Tim O'Brien shares a tale from his days at the Ketchum agency, where insane pressure, bad luck, poor timing and colorful characters all came together to create a situation worthy of its own Seinfeld episode.




Transcript:


Dusty Weis:

Take one part, unrealistic expectations and one part insane pressure, cut it with a bad luck and poor timing, sprinkle in some colorful characters and top it all off with comedic miscommunication and you've got a classic 90s sitcom. Or if your Pittsburgh based VR consultant, Tim O'Brien, the worst day of your career.


Tim O'Brien:

And I call it the press conference from hell. You know how it is in this business; when you've done all this work and you've put all this care into it and you see it just go up and smoke. The whole thing was a Seinfeld episode, even set in the city of New York.


Dusty Weis:

You see, when Tim was starting off as a project manager for the Ketchum Agency, it was a different era. One of awful airline food, loud shirts, big hair and analog technology. Just like with Seinfeld and the gang, they didn't all have cellphones that could instantly connect them with the rest of their team.


Seinfeld Episode :

Email, telephones, fax machines, FedEx, Telex, telegraphs.


Dusty Weis:

Information, moved slowly. Miscommunications had more time to cause cascading problems, and screaming at people was considered a legitimate management style. So like an episode of Seinfeld, Tim's story seems almost entirely implausible when viewed through a contemporary lens and that's what makes it kind of fun. I'm Dusty Weis from PodCamp media, this is led balloon, a podcast about PR, marketing and branding nightmares and the well-meaning communications professionals who live them.


Dusty Weis:

Here we are nearly three decades on from the tale you're about to hear, and Tim O'Brien says he and his comrades from Ketchum still tell this story. So I'm glad that he reached out because that's what I'm trying to do with this show. My goal is to collect the war stories of battle-hardened PR and marketing professionals and put them out there for the entire industry to enjoy on a monthly basis. So if that's up your alley, take this moment to subscribe to our podcast feed. That's about the highest compliment you can pay me, right up there with rating us on your favorite podcast app or leaving a comment. And to get the hilarious B sides and outtakes follow Podcamp Media on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You know, that's one thing I envy about Jerry Seinfeld; he never had to experience the ignominy of having to shamelessly shill for followers on social media.


Seinfeld Episode :

I have no dignity.


Dusty Weis:

But this is the world we live in today and while we may complain about technology, there's no doubt that we're all better and more effective communications professionals for having it. Case in point, the tale of Pittsburgh-based PR consultant, Tim O'Brien. Tim's been in the biz for more than 30 years and rose through the ranks to become a vice president at Ketchum, He's now the owner of O'Brien Communications and hosts the Shaping Opinion Podcast; a podcast that looks at how moments in history changed the way that we think about the world. For those of a certain age, his story is a throwback to a different time in PR and marketing. And for us millennials, Well, it's a terrifying glimpse at life in a world without broadband.


Tim O'Brien:

I call it the press conference from hell. The whole thing was a Seinfeld episode, even set in the city of Manhattan, New York. The point I always make about Seinfeld is: if you ever watch those Seinfeld episodes, I would say a good majority, maybe 70% of the episodes would never have happened if there were cellphones at the time that Jerry Seinfeld and his crew had these incidents happen to them, because the whole episode would have been solved with a quick phone call, but the funniness of the episodes was that they couldn't get in touch with each other and that's pretty much the theme of this press conference is: so many things were going wrong in the planning stages and a lot of those things might've been averted, had we had some of the technologies we have today.


Tim O'Brien:

We had a client that was a large multinational company and they were scheduled to reopen an R&D facility in a suburb outside of New York City. And that's pretty much a straight forward project; it was then and it would be today. I was the project manager, I was not the team lead of the project, but I was pretty much the project manager for the press conference; that's how we divided up duties. So the individual client in this case, and this was back again at a different time, and people managed things differently, people put in charge of corporations and managers at corporations ran things differently. So this was at a time when it wasn't uncommon for managers to be what we called, "Screamers"; if they weren't happy, they didn't just let you know they weren't happy. They liked to scream when they said it, and they were very volatile people.


Dusty Weis:

And lest I come off as a melting snowflake of the millennial generation here; I'll point out that those people still exist out in the corporate world right now, but that's sort of been relegated to more of an archaic role. It's not really expected. It's not really accepted even in the corporate world, even if it still exists, but it was considered a legitimate management style back in the day. That sort of rule by fear, iron fist mentality.


Tim O'Brien:

Yeah. I don't know how accepted it was, but I do know that it was so common that it was just one of those things. You had certain different personality types and you learned to work with them and you didn't consider that an issue when you dealt with anybody, whether it was a client, a vendor, people had their own ways of making their points. So there were some very colorful people. And, again, I have to say too, to your point; one of my best things is working with demanding clients. In fact, I've always done well with demanding clients, and you did mention that the client is the ultimate boss when you're working for the client. And that's so true. And it should be that way. And it's also good that a client is demanding and they have high expectations, because we always did at Ketchum and we, and we always do now, where I work, when I work with clients. So that's never a problem. But to your point, when emotions are running high, that's when things get a little bit more crazy. And that's kind of what happened here. We did have a client in this case who was a very expressive, let's say, person, and he knew how to make his points, so that was kind of the tone.


Tim O'Brien:

So as I mentioned, our job on the project was to handle all of the logistics and I was the point person and I should have known the project was kind of jinxed from the beginning when we had an initial planning crisis over the paper stock for our press kits. The press kits were only supposed to be these plain white press kits with the company logo on them. And they were, what we might say even today is: your standard coated white paper stock. You could find this kind of paper at just about any printer, and we were going to print it locally. We had enough time to do things right, and get things together early. But the client insisted that we buy our paper from a European paper supplier. I don't know why; that was just one of the specifications, that we had to use paper from a European and paper supplier. So I had to tell the printer to wait for this particular paper stock to come here, and then they would use that paper to print these plain white folders on this European paper


Seinfeld Episode :

You demand perfection from yourself, and from your soup.


Dusty Weis:

Is this one of those situations where it's not a Parmesan cheese unless it comes from a certain region in Europe? I mean what was the big deal with having European paper?


Tim O'Brien:

I have no idea. It may have been a relationship that the company had with the paper company? I'm not sure about that. I do know this, that there wasn't a watermark on the paper, so anyone using the price kits would not have known that this was a certain type of paper. There was nothing to indicate that this paper was actually special paper. But we complied and we did it. But what it did was, it pushed back all of the planning of the press kits until we could get the paper in from Europe and the printer could do a press run for the things that we needed. And that put time pressures on us that we felt, I'm not saying the whole agency, but I felt, and a couple other people on the team felt at that time that maybe were unnecessary.


Tim O'Brien:

So we ended up going with the paper that they chose and we waited and we pushed everything back and we put the press kits together. And then I had to take a sample of the press kit, using the paper that was approved, to the client before the event, just to make sure that he got to inspect the paper and make sure that it was everything that he wanted.


Dusty Weis:

And was he licking it? What's he rubbing it up against the cheek to ensure that it was of the proper thread count? Does paper have a thread count.


Tim O'Brien:

It's funny because no, he wasn't doing any of those things; he was very reasonable about it, but he did insist on being able to see the paper, and I brought it to him and he looked at it and he nodded his head as though he could tell. I know he couldn't tell, but he thought it was the right paper, and we were all happy from there. So I thought that was the only issue, but that was just one issue.


Tim O'Brien:

What ended up happening is what happens a lot of times when you plan any event and that is, people wait until the last minute to get you what you need and you're under a time crunch. So it was very stressful for everybody on the team. And there were several people on the team working on this, and we ended up preparing everything, and just to be safe; we collated our press kits, we put them in white boxes and we could have FedEx them, we could have sent them overnight, but we decided, "No, these are precious cargo. This paper we had to get in from Europe and everything. This is precious cargo. We were going to take this with us and we're going to check it as baggage."


Dusty Weis:

Everything short of putting it in a briefcase and handcuffing it to your arm.


Tim O'Brien:

Exactly. And these were big white cardboard boxes. There were a couple of hundred press kits in these boxes, so it came out, so I remember about the three boxes, and I'd say two and a half of the boxes were full. We duct taped them together and we took our luggage and we hopped on an airplane. Then we flew to New York, and as we were waiting on the tarmac after we landed, I remember this, and it was raining, and I was standing in the aisle with all the other people waiting to board the plane. I'm standing at the point in the aisle where you're looking out a window and there's the wing, and you can look down and you can see the guys on the tarmac unloading the luggage. And I see the little conveyor belt coming off of the airplane coming down towards the guys. And I see these three white cardboard boxes and I said, "There's our boxes."


Dusty Weis:

There we go. Mission accomplished.


Tim O'Brien:

Mission accomplished. They made it. Except it was raining. And the guy at the bottom of the ramp was taking the boxes, and without looking behind him, tossing the luggage over his shoulder into the luggage cart. And if it was a suitcase, he was hitting the luggage cart perfectly, because I guess he knew the weight of a suitcase so he could toss it over his shoulder and it would land on the cart. And he didn't even have to look.


Dusty Weis:

That's that muscle memory.


Tim O'Brien:

Right. Oh yeah, he had it down and I was amazed at that. So I'm watching our cardboard boxes go down the ramp and I see him do the same thing with our first cardboard box, and I realize that he did not have muscle memory for our boxes. The box fell short of the cart. He didn't know this and it hits a tarmac in the rain. The box just exploded onto the tarmac. I'm looking at all that European paper spread out, getting rained on and stepped on by him too. And I'm going crazy.


Seinfeld Episode :

All my work, my planning, my genius, all for naught.


Tim O'Brien:

You know how it is in this business when you've done all this work and you're and you put all this care into it, and you see it just go up in smoke or in this case: the rain. And I see him do the same thing with the second box, and he does the same thing with the third box. The third box was half full, and for some reason that one landed on the cart and did not get wet. So we had a half full box of pristine press kits, and we had press kits all over the tarmac in the rain. And I knew this just standing there; I didn't have to wait.


Tim O'Brien:

You know, your blood pressure goes up and you start wondering, "What are we going to do?" And we're all just flipping out in the airplane. We can't get to the baggage check fast enough. So we ended up getting there, and we wait for our boxes and it takes a while. And then we see these banged up white boxes with new duct tape on them come down the conveyor belt and they must have just taken what they could and threw them in the boxes.


Dusty Weis:

Scrape that off the tarmac with a shovel.


Tim O'Brien:

Right. And they did that, and that was what we had.


Dusty Weis:

What did they tell you? I mean, did you have time to take this to customer service and show them this newly duct tape soaking wet box of refuse and say, "This was a stack of press releases once, what happened?"


Tim O'Brien:

I think the team lead on our account did that. I think he did that while I and the other members of the team hustled into some taxicabs to get down and try to assess the damage and fix the damage. We had no time. We knew we had a press conference the next day, and we already had this problem. So we started trying to solve that problem. So we get under the cabs and again, none of us have cellphones; this is pre-cellphone, and we are trying to figure out what we can do, and it's now late in the day. It's New York; that's a good thing. You would think you would be able to find these quick print service companies that could help us. Well we did find one, we had everything copied from the masters that we had and we a little bit of cut and paste and we literally did cut and pasting, and it actually was amazing of what we were able to do in a short period of time.


Seinfeld Episode :

I love a good caper. Yeah, that's what it is, isn't it? A caper.


Tim O'Brien:

We took the fresh prints back to the hotel now the hotel that we were staying at was up in suburban New York so, and the client was having a cocktail party that night, and the team lead was scheduled to go to that cocktail party and show them our press kit. We did have a few very nice press kits in the box that was not damaged, so he already had that. He's trying to get ready for a cocktail party. It was just him and me in his hotel room; there was no command center for us so we used his hotel room as our command center, by default. My visual image of that night is him and his boxer shorts and a tee shirt.


Seinfeld Episode :

I need the secure packaging of jockeys.


Tim O'Brien:

Running around his hotel room trying to get ready, get his tux on, get a cocktail party, and I am literally spreading out the contents of the press kits, because they weren't stapled and I had to collate them all once again, by myself, and staple them a certain way and re-insert everything and reassemble everything, and we were doing this and we were just in a total panic and then he goes to the cocktail party, he shows the client the press kit folder. They're very happy with the way things are going so far and we're in a total panic mode, just trying to keep it all together at this point.


Dusty Weis:

Were they aware at that point that something had gone horribly wrong, or were they sort of operating under the assumption that everything was cool?


Tim O'Brien:

We thought, if we could fix it, they weren't going to be any worse for wear. And we did fix it. We had a certain number of media coming, and almost all of those media were able to get press kits that we had prepared back in the office that weren't damaged in the airport. We had a few press kits we were able to mix and match that weren't as damaged from the fall. So the bottom line was if we had 200 press kits on display, I would say about 120 of them were still the original press kits just fixed. And there were probably about 80 press kits that came from that quick printer, and we put those press kits on the bottom of the pile, so if we actually needed them, they were there but they weren't front and center so nobody would see unless we got to the bottom of the pile.


Dusty Weis:

What I love about this so far is that, this takes me back to high school, actually. My high school band director, Randy Schneeberger head a saying, and it was to be like a duck; smooth as glass on top of the water, but kicking like hail underneath to stay afloat. And to me, that has always been sort of the benchmark for good public relations, where things can be an absolute cluster beneath the surface of the pond, but as long as you are just that smooth duck on the top of the pond; mission accomplished. Everybody goes home with a win. But I've done enough episodes of this show now that, if I can claim to have any recurring themes, one of them would surely be: never ask what else can go wrong. Because this mission wasn't over for you guys.


Tim O'Brien:

Oh, no; Murphy's Law was at play. I learned from this event, and it dictated a lot of the things I did after that. But I think a lot of people today know better than to fly without a net the way we did.


Dusty Weis:

Ah, what a cliffhanger and what an opportune moment for the break. More Lead Balloon in a moment. This is Lead Balloon and I'm Dusty Weiss, as a PR neophyte, Tim O'Brien found himself hanging on for dear life to a PR project that seemed to be trying like heck to buck him off. The Seinfeld effect was in full swing,


Seinfeld Episode :

There's no way to get in touch with them? I'll call them on the car phone.


Dusty Weis:

A pressure cooker was heating up, and the entire gang stood on the brink of pandemonium. And then as in every good Seinfeld episode, there was the unexpected, absurd twist in the third act.


Tim O'Brien:

We go to bed the night before the press conference thinking the worst is behind us. And my job the next day was saying to meet the media in Manhattan, we had a bus that was going to take the media from Manhattan out to the research facility. And again, no cellphones, so my coworkers who are already out there on site don't have any way of telling me ahead of time what's happening. The bus is full. We have a lot of reporters with us from major media. They're very happy. They're looking forward to this event and as we pull up to the R&D facility, we see protesters.


Dusty Weis:

Now this must have just caught you completely flatfooted, because while we're protecting the name of the client in question here, just for the purposes of good business; this wasn't anybody controversial or anybody where you would have anticipated a crowd of placard carrying protesters to show up, right?


Tim O'Brien:

Absolutely not. No. In fact, what happened was the company had bought this research facility and prior to them buying it, or in a former life, this research facility had been used for animal testing. But that was not their plan for it. Their plan was a much more mundane research use for the facility, so they had no plans for animal testing. However, and again, this is a time before the internet and social media, I believe an animal rights group had assumed that they were going to do animal testing at this site. So they marshaled a group to do protests when this press event was going to be held. They were wrong, but they protested at the gates of the facility that day.


Seinfeld Episode :

It's a walk-out! Scab! Scab!


Tim O'Brien:

So what ended up happening was we come up and I'm looking at these protestors, and I then I quickly turned around and I looked back at all the media on my bus and they're all looking the same way I am. It's like, "What's going on here?" But you could see from their signs what they were protesting and right then and there, I was able to look back and talk to the reporters within earshot and say, "There isn't any animal testing in this facility, but we'll show you that, because we're going to give you a tour of the whole facility and you can ask all the questions you want in just a few minutes." And that's what we did. We brought them in.


Dusty Weis:

Did anybody bother to let the protesters know? As you were on your way in?


Tim O'Brien:

I think the company did, and we talk about this being a different time, and it was really a different time, because at a time like this, and it's hard to believe today, because today is so polarized; it's a skepticism and almost a cynicism sometimes in the public and in the media. But at that time, we were able to very transparently show the media that we weren't doing any animal testing, that the claims were not true on the part of the protestors. And they believed it because they saw it. And because they saw it, they decided this wasn't news. And I think if that had happened today, some media would've covered the fact that there were protesters, whether there was any animal testing or not. But at that time, the fact that their claims were baseless was enough for the media on the bus to decide this wasn't news. They saw the protesters, they had access to the protesters, the company did nothing to deny that. But the media decided, "No, that's not the story. The story is this," and as you said, that duck analogy that you used; everybody did their jobs and the media did their jobs, the company did their jobs. They answered every tough question. They showed every square inch of the facility to the media and explained what it was and what it did, and everybody was happy with the outcome and the result.


Dusty Weis:

At what point after this press conference was said and done, were you able to just kick your feet back and take a deep breath and say, "Holy cow, we got through that?"


Tim O'Brien:

I think we were shell shocked from the series of events that happened. We were waiting for what would go wrong next and by the time the press conference happened, we hadn't seen the coverage yet. We didn't know if they talked to those protesters and what the protesters might've said and those types of things. The first stories, when they started to appear later in the day on the wires and things like that, we started to realize that no, the story was getting out there the right way. So I think when I left the next day with a couple of other members of the team and we got on the airplane to go back, I think that's when we first breathed our sigh of relief.


Dusty Weis:

I imagine you in my mind's eye, just dug in at the hotel bar, sitting there, grabbing every newspaper off the stack that you can with all four channels on the evening news, just scanning each TV waiting, with bated breath and then when nothing negative came across, you must've celebrated a little?


Tim O'Brien:

Oh, we celebrated. We celebrated after that when the whole project was over and all the media coverage was in and the client was a happy client. We celebrated that. And we actually did, we took the whole team out for celebratory dinner and it was a great thing.


Dusty Weis:

We joked around about how if you had had cellphones when all this went down, how much different of an experience it might've been. And as I was getting set for this interview and doing some research, I found this hilarious video on YouTube that was essentially exploring the idea of what would various horror movies have been like had the characters, had cellphones, or in a lot of cases, had cellphone reception as a, for instance a Janet Leigh probably never would have wound up Bates Motel, because she would have read a one-star Yelp review of it. So tell me this story again, but from the perspective of someone who had a smartphone in his hand the entire time.


Tim O'Brien:

That's interesting. That's a real interesting concept. Had we had a cellphone, I can tell you I would have known about those protesters before we got there, and I would have been able to walk down the aisle of the bus and tell the people in the role of the reporters what's about to happen. And I would have been able to address them had we had smartphones, we would've probably been able to text all the reporters and email them a statement about what this was and we probably would have add security to have a little bit more of a buffer zone between the protestors and the and the facility. But that was sort of what you might call a, "Flash mob," even then, so that could happen today. But on the issue of the press kits, well today we would probably have PDFs and we would have a lot of things online, so we wouldn't even have to worry about all that paper on the runway. There's so much that you can do digitally now that makes something like that avoidable. But the cellphones and the smartphones, I thank the good Lord every day that I have those I have to do my job.


Dusty Weis:

You and me both. If nothing else, this is a morality tale about the fact that technology, for all its faults and shortcomings, is still making us more efficient and saving our bacon on a daily basis in the fields of public relations and marketing.


Dusty Weis:

I want to take you back to that moment that you so eloquently described where you watched those boxes of carefully collated press kits bouncing off the tarmacs soaked in the rain. This had already been a traumatic experience for you. Everything, building up to this point had been hard, you had a demanding client and in that moment, I feel like a lot of people would have just broken. They would have just thrown their hands up and said, "Nope, that's it. I'm done. Nevermind the consequences. The client is just going to have to deal with it." How close do you think you are, looking back, to that point?


Tim O'Brien:

Honestly I wasn't, that didn't cross my mind. All I could think of was, "What do we do next?" And I have to say this though, I did that project for my client, but at this point in time, I was also a Crisis Communicator. I do crisis communications, and I was doing crisis communications back then with a lot of clients and I think you develop a certain mindset when you do crisis work that things are going to go wrong, so what are we doing next? You try to plan for what could go wrong, but there were always those times where you do all the planning you can, and something you didn't expect happens. I didn't think about it this way at the time, but what I know now is: you have to have basically core values when it comes to ethical issues, and you have to have core principles on how you're going to get something done. You also have to have communications and client relations principles. When do we tell the client what's happening? How do we tell the client what's happening? And how do we keep the focus on the solution, not the problem.


Dusty Weis:

I always liken it to improv comedy, and I like to think that the best PR and especially crisis managers are like improv comedians, in that the answer that they have is always, "Yes and," "Okay, the press kits are soaked in water. Yes, and what do we do now? How do we move? We move this scene forward?"


Dusty Weis:

In my research for this episode, part of which I'll admit, just involved watching a ton of old Seinfeld clips on YouTube, but in my research, I came across a quote from Jerry Seinfeld from outside that frenetic world that we associate with him. He said, "To me, if life boils down to one thing, it's movement. To live is to keep moving." In that way, comedy is not so different from strategic communications and when you've slogged through an experience like Tim and his team had, Tim says, "It brings you closer together".


Tim O'Brien:

Those are those bonding experiences you have, so that when you see each other years later you start retell these types of stories. And I know that's the whole point of your podcast, is these are the types of stories we tell each other and reminisce on and say, "Do you remember when we saw those predicates hit that airport tarmac? I can't believe it."


Dusty Weis:

I believe among certain communities, this process is referred to as euphoric recall, "We got through it together," and ultimately I feel like experiences like this can either bring a team together or tear them apart. And it sounds like this one brought your team together, but what makes the difference between a difficult experience that builds a team or breaks it, do you think?


Tim O'Brien:

I think part of it is that you got through it and then it was successful. It's a lot easier to remember something that worked out, and even if it was trying, you can look back and say, "Well we did it." But I do think there have been those times where it hasn't worked out. I had a press conference where I had a $2 million grant and the Labor Secretary was in town to give a grant for jobs training. And I checked with the media half hour before the press conference and they were all saying they're coming; TV, radio, newspaper, print. This was a little bit more recent, so internet and online. And what ended up happening in that case was our press event was two blocks from the County jail, and two days earlier there was this big murder case and they arrested the suspect. So they were having the perp walk as they call it, at the County jail at the exact time of our press conference. Well that normally wouldn't be a problem for business story. But what ended up happening was, since we were so close in this is happening in real time, they assignments desks told their reporters, "Don't go to that press conference, go to the perp walk".


Tim O'Brien:

So we are standing there and I told the client, "Yes, I called them 20 minutes ago. They said they're coming. And here they are; they're not here." We literally had a client, we had the Secretary of Labor, we had no media in attendance. Luckily it was one of those press events where you have so many other people that aren't media around, that they were able to at least fill in the seats, and not make it look so bad. But it was one of those press conferences where I use that one as a reminder for myself, to any client, when they want to do a press conference, only do it if you really have to. And I tell them that story, and I say, "Just be prepared. Anything could happen a day out."


Dusty Weis:

And remember that you don't control the universe, at the end of the day. Public relations is about managing it, but you can't control when breaking news breaks.


Tim O'Brien:

That is so true. One of the worst feelings in PR is that moment before the event's supposed to start, and you don't have the crowd you expected to have. And you're looking at each other and the client's looking at you, and that is one of the worst feelings in public relations. So I've learned over the years to do a lot of things to make sure that doesn't happen and they're all little detailed things, but they're important things to do. The day of the event, you do everything that you can, you control what you can control, and you manage the client's expectations that there are some things that you can't control, and if you do all that, hopefully you can deal with whatever happens.


Dusty Weis:

Before I let you go, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that you are also a podcast host. Your show is called Shaping Opinion, and you're more than a hundred episodes deep into this project already. I like it because I'm kind of a history nerd, and you're taking a real nontraditional approach, going sort of behind the scenes, behind the music on a whole bunch of historic topics, but what can people expect when they tune in and listen to your show?


Tim O'Brien:

And thank you for bringing that up too. We have a tagline for the podcast, "We talk about people, events and things that have shaped the way we think". I decided to do this podcast because it was one that I really would've liked to listen to, but I couldn't find. I like a lot of the NPR shows, but I also like business shows and I like communication shows. So what I wanted to do, and I'm doing is, I wanted to take these major things or people or influences on the way we see the world. And that's where the communications aspect comes in. "How do people perceive the world?" Because that's what we do in public relations, is we work on opinion. What are people's opinions? But, what are the big events or what are the big things that influenced the way people see the world? And tell that story. And tell it from this more fundamental, "These are the dynamics involved," not, "Oh, here's the press release they sent out to shape opinion."


Tim O'Brien:

So as you mentioned, there's a lot of history in it. So I've talked to people about 9/11 a couple of times, and one of those people more recently was a Navy officer who was at the Pentagon, and he told his first person's story from the Pentagon on 9/11, and we just talked about that. And I think when you listen to that and you come away; you not only learn his story and history, but you also help see how that event influenced public opinion. And you do that almost innately. I'm not trying to tell you in the podcast, "Here's how this event influenced your opinion." Just telling the story should do that, is the hope. So we've had those types of guests on. I've talked to a Nobel prize winner. I've talked to a NFL super agent, I've talked to authors and doctors and public relations people as well. We've talked about the classic Tylenol crisis. We've talked about the Domino's crisis, where there was a YouTube video that created a crisis for Domino's about 11 years ago. So yeah, we've talked about a number of things in a hundred episodes, and if anyone wants to find it, it's on any major podcast channel: iTunes, Spotify, all the major podcast channels, a new episode every Monday. It's easy to find.


Dusty Weis:

As well as shapingopinion.com


Tim O'Brien:

Right.


Dusty Weis:

I definitely recommend checking it out for anybody who's interested, any big history nerds like me out there. Tim O'Brien, a PR consultant from Pittsburgh, the host of the Shaping Opinion podcast; it has been edifying and informative to talk to you. I will stop griping so much about the amount of time that I spend staring at my cellphone, because it does bail me out from time to time. Thanks for joining me on the Lead Balloon podcast.


Tim O'Brien:

Well thank you for having you on, Dusty. It was a good time. And best of luck with your new podcast. I'm enjoying it.


Dusty Weis:

Thanks again to Tim O'Brien for taking time out of his very busy schedule to share his story. We recorded this right around new year's day and he asked me then when it was going to run and I said, "March," and he went, "Huh?" Those weekly podcasters, they've got hustle. Thanks are due as well to my own personal George Castanza, my old buddy Ben Kollenbroich for serving as my Seinfeld expertise consultant in this episode. And he's got a very hectic schedule right now as well. He's on paternity leave.


Ben:

And it's like spinning plates. I'm like, "Maddie go to bed, Harriet, stop crying." And then I run out console Harriet and then Maddie starts crying and wants to be held and I console her. And then Harriet starts crying. And then I'm getting stressed, so I have to take off my shirt because I'm sweating through my shirt. It's a total mess.


Dusty Weis:

Like I said, he's my own personal George Costanza. Congrats to Ben his wife Erin on the birth of their second bright and beautiful daughter. And speaking of such things. Let me just pull the mic on down here for you. Say hello, Ms Josephine. And a big yawn for daddy. That's what she made of this episode. Podcasting is a medium that relies on the mind's eye and since you can't see what I'm seeing, I'll try to describe it for you. Imagine if you will, the most perfect little two week old baby girl that you've ever met in your life, with great big blue eyes and a smile that tells me that deep down inside her, she's cooking up something truly nasty for a diaper change later. That's what I'm holding in my arms right now and that's what's been keeping us extra busy here at PodCamp Media.


Dusty Weis:

If you enjoyed this episode or if you're just a big fan of dads with babies, I guess, make sure you subscribe to the Lead Balloon podcast feed, share this episode with your friends and colleagues. And you're putting food on my kids' table, so there's that. Feedback is always welcomed in the comment section or dusty@podcampmedia.com. If you've got a story that's perfect for the show, I'd also love to hear from you. Lead Balloon is produced by PodCamp Media where we provide branded podcast production solutions for businesses. Check out the website, podcampmedia.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for extra fun stuff. Until the next time. Thanks for listening, I'm Dusty Weis.



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